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ECONOMY | 27-08-2020 02:36

Trump’s pick for IDB top job says he wants to counter China's influence

Mauricio Claver-Carone said the Washington-based bank could supplant Beijing as a go-to lender across the region at a time when Xi Jinping’s administration is pulling back.

A senior adviser to US President Donald Trump said he would build the Inter-American Development Bank into a financial heavyweight to counter China’s influence in the Western Hemisphere should he win the presidency of the multilateral lender.

Mauricio Claver-Carone said the Washington-based bank could supplant Beijing as a go-to lender across the region at a time when Xi Jinping’s administration is pulling back.

Last year, the Chinese Development Bank and China Export-Import Bank provided US$1.1 billion in financing to the region’s governments and state-owned firms compared with more than US$35 billion in 2010, according to a report by the Inter-American Dialogue and Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center. Even the IDB has turned to Beijing for support, which Claver-Carone blamed on the lack of buy-in from Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

He’s been making the rounds of some of the bank’s largest shareholders in Latin America and Europe, pushing for a capital increase.

“IDB Invest could be an extraordinary tool,” Claver-Carone said in an interview, referring to the lender’s investment arm.

Claver-Carone is mounting a campaign to head the IDB, which lends about US$13 billion per year, after his nomination by Trump sparked controversy for breaking an unwritten tradition of Latin Americans presiding over the bank.

While the Cuban-US citizen is a front-runner in the September 12 election, there’s no guarantee the vote will be held. A minority of shareholders including Argentina, Mexico and Chile are seeking to delay it and could prevent a quorum.

Partisan baggage

Critics also argue that Claver-Carone brings partisan baggage that could prove particularly challenging if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the US election in November.

At the White House, Claver-Carone led a hardline policy against Cuba as well as a diplomatic effort to win international recognition for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. A lawyer by training, he previously served as the US Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund.

To assuage concern about a North American heading an organisation normally led by Latin Americans, Claver-Carone said he’s held talks with the Brazilians about the IDB’s No. 2 position and added that he’ll appoint leaders from the Caribbean and Central America. He also committed to picking top advisers from a cohort of younger policy makers who have managed the Covid-19 fallout.

“I’m a big fan of Ecuador’s Richard Martínez, Peru’s María Antonieta Alva, Jamaica’s Nigel Clarke and Uruguay’s Azucena Arbeleche,” Claver-Carone said. “There’s no shortage of new generation talent throughout the region.”

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by Ben Bartenstein, Bloomberg

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